Tag Archives: Venezuela

Goldman Sachs admits it bought Venezuelan bonds

Goldman Sachs admitted it bought Venezuelan bonds after getting accused by the country’s opposition of trying to “make a quick buck off the suffering of the Venezuelan people.”

The president of Venezuela’s opposition-led Congress blasted Goldman for financing “dictatorship” under President Nicholas Maduro after Goldman bought $2.8 billion in bonds issued by state oil company PDVSA at a steep discount.

Continue reading Goldman Sachs admits it bought Venezuelan bonds


RANKED: The world’s national debts, from safest to most risky

CDS map

Click here for maximum resolution

Bank of America’s Transforming World Atlas has loads of lovely infographics in it, but one of the most colourful is a map of the world’s riskiest sovereign debt.

The map uses the prices of credit default swaps, which are derivatives that pay out if a borrower defaults.

Sovereign credit default swaps have been used as a type of insurance against sovereign governments not paying back the money they owe. Like any insurance product, the more expensive it is the more likely the event you’re insuring against will happen soon.

Venezuelan debt is by far the most risky, costing twice as much as Greek or Ukrainian debt to insure.

The graphic also shows just how far Spain and Ireland have come. The market thinks their debt is pretty risk free, with lower CDS spreads than Italy or Portugal. The Spanish economy is going through a bit of a revival after suffering a devastating housing crash and unemployment crisis.

Eco-Cabañas en Venezuela / Kristofer Nonn

Arquitectos: Kristofer Nonn
Ubicación: Santa Elena, Venezuela
Área: 17.0 m2
Año Proyecto: 2007
Fotografías: Nick Brown / Open Architecture Network

Costo: $500 USD (No específicado)
Cliente: Peace Villages Foundation
Usuarios: Voluntarios y trabajadores de Peace Villages Foundation
Capacidad: 2 Personas

© Nick Brown / Open Architecture Network


En al año 2007, Kristofer Nonn y su señora, Helen, se embarcaron en un viaje a través deIdealist.org para enseñar y construir en la localidad venezolana de Santa Elena. Después de revisar las chozas de hojalata donde vive la mayoría de la población, Nonn consideró que había que hacer pequeñas mejoras en la forma en que se estas se construyen, logrando hacer grandes diferencias con poco esfuerzo.

© Nick Brown / Open Architecture Network

Usando la misma madera local, hojalatas y hormigón, las Eco-Cabañas tienen varias características de diseño sostenible. Primero, son levantadas del suelo para evitar el contacto con el suelo húmedo, evitando la infestación de termitas, y promoviendo el enfriamiento.

© Nick Brown / Open Architecture Network

Una de ellas está revestida de tejas de tipo Tung y la otra en una combinación de hormigón y botellas de vidrio de desecho, encontradas en los bordes de las carreteras.

© Nick Brown / Open Architecture Network

Las puertas se abren a la brisa y las vistas hacia el valle en orientación norte-sur y los techos capturan las brisas y el agua de la lluvia. El mobiliario está integrado en el marco de la pared, reduciendo al mínimo la cantidad de material requerido.


El consumo de energía es sólo un par de bombillas de luz en cada cabaña. Nonn espera que sus edificios inspiren nuevas y mejores formas de construir en la región, de forma más respetuosa con el medio ambiente de Santa Elena.

Elevaciones + Axonométrica

Más información en Open Architecture Network / Architecture For Humanity

Venezuela uses photo of journalist it detained to promote how well it treats foreigners

In an effort to promote tourism, Venezuela’s state-funded television station has been tweeting bright and sunny images with reasons why “we love Venezuela” under the hashtag #AmamosAVenezuela. One of those promos features a smiling Miami Herald reporter Jim Wyss, and atelevision ad proclaims,

“We love Venezuela for receiving foreigners like one of our own.”

The problem? That photo was taken at Miami International Airport in 2013 and, “the reason I’m so happy is because I’m just getting back to the U.S. after spending 48 hours in detention in Venezuela,” Wyss writes.

The tweet from Telesur, which Wyss tells The Post he discovered Thursday, appears to have since been deleted. But Wyss did tweet in English and inSpanish, asking the television station of it was an accidental or ironic use of his image:

Wyss, who works as the South America correspondent for the Herald, had been in Venezuela in 2013 covering the upcoming municipal vote. As part of his coverage, he sought out “statistics on contraband” and he was told talk to the Bolivarian National Guard about it, he writes. He showed up at the guard’s headquarters and was told that “The General” would soon speak with him. Hours dragged on and when Wyss attempted to leave, he was told he couldn’t. Wyss writes:

Instead, I was handed over to “The Inspector,” who put me into an armored car with doors that didn’t open from the inside (I checked). When I asked him where we were going, he said, “My office.”

His office was an undistinguished house on an inconspicuous street in San Cristóbal. The windows were heavily barred. Once inside, I was told that I was being investigated by military counter-intelligence.

So began a 48-hour period in which Wyss was questioned about his activities, notes and contacts and then held in an immigration holding cell before he was eventually released, Wyss writes. He added: “I was exceptionally lucky” and thankful to “The Miami Herald, the U.S. State Department, airlines, local journalists and absolute strangers [who] pushed hard for my release.”

“I’m still looking for those statistics on contraband,” Wyss wrote in 2013. “General: You have my phone numbers — and the contact information of everyone I’ve ever known. Call me.”

Advocates for press freedom have called the country a difficult environment for reporters. Numerous journalists were physically assaulted by pro-government demonstrators and law enforcement officials while covering 2014 protests against President Nicolás Maduro, according to local press freedom groups, and at least six journalists were detained, the Committee to Protect Journalists noted.

Cigars all round: the thaw in US-Cuba relations

It was on February 7 1962 that John F Kennedy signed the US policy now known as the Cuban embargo into law. The day before, the US president had ordered an aide to buy him 1,000 Petit Upmanns cigars. It was only after Kennedy got word that his request had been carried out that he authorised the new regulations that banned Cuban imports and would have made the purchase illegal.

Today, 52 years later, Barack Obama has partially reversed that law. The changes he has made do not amount to a full repeal of the embargo – that requires an act of Congress. Nonetheless, the changes are profound. They recognise that US policy towards the island has failed to achieve its objective of change – Mr Obama is, after all, the 11th US president to face a socialist Cuba.

They recognise that the embargo has often poisoned US diplomacy in the broader region. And the changes recognise that, for over half a century, the US embargo has been emblematic of Washington’s bully-boy approach to the socialist island, which has won Cuba international sympathy that the dictatorship of the Castro brothers would otherwise not have enjoyed.

The release on December 17 from a Cuban jail of US contractor Alan Gross is the proximate cause of the change in policy that will allow, among other measures, the use of US credit and debit cards on the island. In return, three Cuban spies held in the US will be returned to the island. But momentum has been building for several years.

On the US side, the coming-of-age of younger Cuban-American voters has transformed domestic political calculations, especially in Florida. In 2000, Cuban-American voters broke three-to-one for Republicans in the presidential election. But in 2012, exit polls showed Cuban-Americans splitting 50:50.

Indeed, Cuban Americans have been among the most enthusiastic champions of engagement. Although several highly-placed Cuban-American legislators remain strong opponents of rapprochement, over 300,000 of their peers travelled to Cuba last year. They also send as much as $3.5bn annually to their relatives. Cuba’s exiles remain part of the island’s solution not, as is so often thought, part of the problem.

The island has also changed. Fidel Castro has retired. His younger brother, Raúl, has taken his place. Although there has been no reform of the political system, there is foment. There is open criticism, an incipient dissident press, and even a supposed date – 2018 – when Raúl will step down.

There have also been some economic reforms under Raúl. Home and car sales are now legal; so too is owning cell phones. Thousands of small private businesses have emerged, as well as some larger groups, arranged as cooperatives. These reforms fall far short of the economic liberalisation that Cuba’s listing Soviet-style economy needs.

But they are more than cosmetic, they are also irreversible and the new US policy seeks to encourage them further. Because Cuba’s current benefactor, Venezuela, is caught in an downward economic spiral, which has only accelerated with the drop in oil prices, any measure that seeks to encourage greater reforms may well be pushing on an open door.

What of the changes in US policy themselves? In essence, they involve removing clunky US bureaucracy from US-Cuban relations, and replacing it with the free exercise of citizen contact. Travel will be expanded. Limits on financial transfers removed.

US companies will be able top sell certain goods freely – such as telecoms equipment. Formal diplomatic relations will be re-established – although expect tougher (and also more credible) criticism of Cuban human rights abuses alongside that.

The president has also ordered a six month review of Cuba’s designation as a “state sponsor of terrorism”. Even the State Department no longer attempts to justify this label, which devalues Washington’s word on international terrorism issues and triggers international financial sanctions against Cuba. Removal of this last measure may prove the most valuable of all to Havana.

There is more that remains to be done before fuller US relations are established, as they have been, say, towards Vietnam. But, in the meantime, Mr Obama has done as much as he can within his executive purview – including a new rule which allows US citizens to import up to $100 worth of Cuban cigars. Much like the new policy itself, this may not be enough to buy 1,000 petit upmanns. But it is still makes for a very good smoke.

OPEC Takes No Action to Ease Supply Glut as Oil Slumps

OPEC Takes No Action to Ease Supply Glut as Oil Slumps

OPEC took no action to ease a global oil-supply glut, resisting calls from Venezuela that the group needs to stem the rout in prices. Futures slumped the most in more than three years.

The group maintained its collective production ceiling of 30 million barrels a day, Ali Al-Naimi, Saudi Arabia’s oil minister, said today after the 12 nations met in Vienna. Brent crude dropped as much as 8.4 percent in London, extending this year’s decline to 35 percent.

Oil tumbled into a bear market this year as the U.S. pumped the most in more than three decades and conflict in the Middle East and Ukraine failed to disrupt supply. While OPEC’s 30-million-barrel limit has been in place since 2012, the group actually produced almost 1 million barrels more last month, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

“OPEC has chosen to abdicate its role as a swing producer, leaving it to the market to decide what the oil price should be,” Harry Tchilinguirian, head of commodity markets at BNP Paribas SA in London, said today by phone. “It wouldn’t be surprising if Brent starts testing $70.”

Brent, a global benchmark, is poised for the biggest annual decline since 2008 on the ICE Futures Europe exchange in London. Futures fell the most since May 2011 and traded down $4.85 to $72.90 a barrel as of 6:25 p.m. local time.

Ruble Slumps

The Norwegian krone, the currency of Western Europe’s largest crude producer, dropped to a five-year low against the dollar. The Canadian dollar fell for the first time in three days and the Russian ruble tumbled. Shares of oil and gas companies were the biggest losers in global stock markets. BP Plc dropped 2.7 percent in London while Royal Dutch Shell Plc declined 3.7 percent.

“The change is that it’s no longer Saudi Arabia and OPEC that are going to be managing the supply side of the market,” Michael Wittner, head of oil market research at Societe Generale SA, said in an e-mail. “That is so fundamental, it is hard to overstate.”

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries considered a cut of 5 percent in output, according to Iraqi Oil Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. That’s about 1.5 million barrels a day based on the current ceiling.

“If you cut 5 millions, this will raise the prices of course,” Mahdi said. “No one discussed a large cut, maybe 5 percent was the utmost that some people wanted.”

The Lavan oil refinery quay on Lavan island off the south coast of Iran, pictured on May 16, 2004

Fair Price

OPEC will convene again on June 5 in Vienna. The decision not to change the production ceiling was anticipated by 58 percent of respondents in a Bloomberg Intelligence survey this week.

“We are not sending any signals to anybody, we just try to have a fair price,” Secretary-General Abdalla El-Badri said at a press conference. The group will abide by the limit, he said. El-Badri will retain his position until the end of 2015.

‘Not Angry’

Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh told reporters after the meeting that he was “not angry” about the decision, but it was “not in line with what we wanted.”

Venezuela, whose currency reserves are close to the lowest in 11 years, planned to push for a production cut, Rafael Ramirez, Venezuela’s OPEC representative, said before the meeting started. “Everybody has to make some sacrifice,” Ramirez said, estimating the global oversupply at 2 million barrels a day. Kuwait put the glut at 1.8 million barrels.

Ministers from Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Angola said they were concerned about the surplus in the market as they arrived at the group’s headquarters.

Iraq's largest oil refinery in the northern town of Baiji on August 5, 2003

West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, dropped as much as 8.1 percent, extending this year’s slump to 30 percent. Futures declined $4.64 to $69.05 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

OPEC pumped 30.97 million barrels a day in October, exceeding the ceiling for a fifth consecutive month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The group estimates the world will need 29.2 million barrels a day of its crude next year, according to a report on Nov. 12.

Venezuelans turn to bitcoins to bypass socialist currency controls

The website of bitcoin trading exchange SurBitcoin is seen on a computer in Caracas October 5, 2014.       REUTERS/Stringer

Tech-savvy Venezuelans looking to bypass dysfunctional economic controls are turning to the bitcoin virtual currency to obtain dollars, make Internet purchases — and launch a little subversion.

Two New York-based Venezuelan brothers hope this week to start trading on the first bitcoin exchange in the socialist-run country, which already has at least several hundred bitcoin enthusiasts.

Due to currency controls introduced by late president Hugo Chavez a decade ago, acquiring hard currency now means either requesting it from the state, which struggles to satisfy demand, or tapping a shadowy black market.

Even small dollar transactions are out of the question for most Venezuelans.

While President Nicolas Maduro makes frequent tirades against black market traders, whom he sees as part of the “economic war” on his government and the reason for inflation and shortages, he has never said anything about bitcoin. The government declined to comment on bitcoin policy.

That has created a gray market for bitcoins, a digital currency which is not governed by a central bank or controlled by a single source. Bitcoin values have soared and fallen in the last year as a popular exchange, Mt. Gox, collapsed and some developed countries began to mull bitcoin regulation. In Venezuela, using bitcoins can carry a scent of subversion.

“Bitcoin is a way of rebelling against the system,” said one bitcoin trader, Caracas-based software developer John Villar, 32, who discovered the usefulness of bitcoin when he wanted to buy a $10 cellphone battery on Amazon.

Unable to pay for it in dollars, he bought bitcoin off a friend using local currency. He then used the bitcoin to purchase an Amazon gift certificate, with which he bought the battery.

Gerardo Mogollon, a business professor who styles himself as ‘Dr. Bitcoin Venezuela,’ speaks at conferences and appears in online videos to urge Venezuelans to adopt the currency.

“I’m teaching people to use bitcoin to bypass the exchange controls,” said Mogollon, a 42-year-old professor at the University of Tachira’s graduate business school.

Currently, bitcoin trading in Venezuela is between enthusiasts who use internet forums and social media to make ad hoc deals.

Venezuela-born brothers Kevin and Victor Charles, now based in New York, are this week hoping to open the “SurBitcoin” exchange, which will match bitcoin buyers and sellers online.


The price of a bitcoin price has dropped 70 percent to under $350 from a peak last November, illustrating one risk of the digital currency.

But Venezuela’s own bolivar currency has dropped nearly 60 percent versus the dollar on the black market here in the last year. And a black market dollar costs 16 times more bolivars than the strongest Venezuelan government rate.

“Even though bitcoin is volatile, it’s still safer than the national currency,” said Kevin Charles, 22, who has just completed an economics degree in neighboring Colombia. Many convert the bitcoin immediately into dollars, in any case.

One of the difficulties of the new exchange will be finding a supply of bitcoins. One hope is that expatriates will use the exchange to send money home, selling bitcoins for bolivars.

Another answer is for Venezuelans to make their own bitcoins.

There are currently more than 13 million bitcoins in existence worldwide, worth nearly $4.5 billion, according to the popular Coinbase trading platform.

New bitcoins are generated by a process known as “mining”, in which computers solve complex problems.

Running high-end computer systems takes a lot of electricity, which is a competitive advantage for Venezuelans.

Bills that could run to hundreds or thousands of dollars a month in the United States would amount to dollars for the same amount of power in Venezuela, thanks to government subsidies.

In a heavily air-conditioned Caracas home, one miner surrounds himself with specialized equipment which cost thousands of dollars. He asked not to be identified for fear of theft.

“In Venezuela, we have a gold fever: a bitcoin fever!” he said.

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